Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Does a Blessing Look Like?

Christians often talk about being blessed. Usually, they are talking about something that is good. On Facebook, I’ve often seen people post pictures of their spouse and kids doing something fun and they caption it simply, “Blessed.” But is that what a blessing looks like?

As a single guy, I’ve got to say, I hope not. I’m happy for them. Really, I am. But if a blessing looks like a wife sleeping on a couch with the kids sleeping next to her, what’s an empty couch? A curse? Someone is sure to point out that at least I have a couch, and that’s true. In fact, I’m happy I have a couch. It’s a nice couch. It is soft leather and it looks like new. I give the Lord full credit for giving me the ability to buy that couch. It really is a nice couch. But do you know what would happen if responded to the picture of a sleeping wife and kids with a picture of my very nice empty couch and captioned it “Blessed”? I’ll give you a hint. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Even though people talk about being single as a blessing or a gift, I don’t think many people mean it. It’s just something they say, because they feel bad about saying that they have a blessing when their single friends do not. To make it worse, they say things like, “being married isn’t what you think it is,” as if to say that a wife and kids isn’t really a blessing. Given that the Bible talks often of a wife and kids being a blessing that seems like dangerous territory to me. When the Lord blesses you with something, don’t try to say it isn’t a blessing, because it turns out to be hard work.

When you think about it, what blessing is there that doesn’t come with hard work attached? Think of the ultimate blessing, our salvation. While salvation itself is a free gift, when Jesus taught his disciples he told them that they would be hated and killed and face great hardships. He told them that they would be expected to leave their families behind. A blessing looks like hard work.

This is not what people think. People think that a blessing makes life easy. When it doesn’t, they start thinking that they haven’t been blessed after all. So, while you can say you are blessed when you see your wife sleeping peacefully on the couch, you are no less blessed when she’s mad as a hornet because you left the toilet seat up. You see, the blessing is the wife and kids (and yes, the couch), not the peaceful feeling you have when you see them at rest. That peaceful feeling is the reward you get for putting in the work required of the blessing. If you didn’t spend time with your wife and kids, putting effort into the marriage, you wouldn’t value that sight nearly as much.

If you are single, an empty couch isn’t a blessing. An empty house isn’t a blessing. I’m not even sure that we can say that having fewer things pulling you away from church work is a blessing. Some people point out that singles are more efficient at church work than married people, but if you don’t take a break once in a while, you will experience burnout. Having a family gives you a built in excuse for not doing something. “I would, but my wife won’t let me take on more stuff.”

That’s not to say that being single can’t be a blessing. Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Perhaps the Lord has put you in the situation you are in because he knows you wouldn’t be able to handle marriage if you had it. But it’s wrong to assume that because marriage is a blessing that we have to figure out a way to make singleness a blessing too. With that way of thinking, we make everything into a blessing. The rich man is blessed because he has wealth and the poor man is blessed because he doesn’t. Soon, it means nothing to say that someone is blessed.

We have this tendency to want to compare blessings. If the Lord blessed that person with that, then surely he will bless me with something just as great. I deserve it just as much or more than them. It isn’t that single people can’t think of things that the Lord has blessed them with. I have a roof over my head, a truck in the drive, and four bicycles in the garage. I have food on the table and clothes on my back. I have money in the bank, and yes, I even have a nice couch. I thank God that he gave me the ability to work for those things. But if I put any one of those things up against someone else’s wife and kids, they would scoff at me suggesting that I was equally blessed to them. What is stuff, compared to people? Our mistake is in trying to compare what the Lord has given us to what he has given to others. And we probably shouldn’t invite others to compare either.

There’s no way to be certain of how things compare anyway. Jesus makes an interesting statement in Mark 10:29-30, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” We might look at someone we think has been blessed less than us, because they don’t have some of the things we have, but they may have a hundred times what we have laid up in the treasures of heaven. But the passage implies it is in this life as well. It may well be that some of the friends we are blessed with are far better than what we would have if we were married. It is a different type of relationship, but if we could lay out the comparison of our friends against their family, it might well be that we are the more blessed.

God doesn’t tell us those things, and for good reason. If we knew we were more blessed, we might look down on the other person, because we are more deserving. If we knew they were more blessed, we might be hurt, because we know we deserve it more. So, the next time you’re tempted to respond to a “Blessed” post by posting a picture of an empty couch…don’t.